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Changing up your haircut, going a shade lighter (or darker, or dramatically different!) can be exciting. Even searching for a new stylist with fresh ideas is fun. But if you have psoriasis on your scalp, the prospect—and the process—may be stressful too. You might be embarrassed by the state of your scalp, or concerned that any products used at a new place will exacerbate your symptoms or bring on a flare. No need to worry. “Communication is the key to working well with a hairstylist, whether you have psoriasis or not,” says Marilyn Ihloff, who’s been a stylist for 40 years and is a member of the Professional Beauty Association Salon/Spa Leadership Council. Here are her tips for walking into a salon with confidence and coming out looking radiant.
•If you want to try a new salon, first talk to the owner or manager. Explain that you have psoriasis and that it’s not contagious, but that it can cause redness and scales on your scalp. Ask if any of the stylists at the salon are experienced with working with people who have psoriasis. “If not, then ask to speak to a senior stylist,” says Ihloff. “At the very least, you don’t want someone fresh out of school.” •Consider meeting with two or three stylists to find one you feel comfortable with. “Usually a consultation is just 15 minutes, and is either free or the cost goes toward your first haircut,” says Ihloff.
•Tell each stylist you speak to that you have psoriasis and that sometimes your scalp flares. Ask if she has a problem working with that. “Most experienced stylists have dealt with people with all kinds of conditions and will be perfectly willing to take you on,” says Ihloff. “If they aren’t, you can shake hands and just keep looking.”
•Once you’ve started working with a stylist, let her know when you’re having a flare so she can be extra gentle when combing and brushing your hair.
•Depending where on your scalp your psoriasis is located, your stylist can suggest ways to minimize its appearance. “Sometimes changing your part may be all that’s necessary to cover affected areas,” says Ihloff. “In other cases, bangs can hide psoriasis on the forehead, or letting your hair grow a little longer in back will camouflage it on the neck.”
•Be careful about color, permanent waves and straightening treatments. The caustic chemicals used in these processes may irritate your scalp, especially if your psoriasis is flaring. Consult with your doctor before undergoing any of these processes. “For many women with psoriasis, it may be best to use hair color that’s applied with foils, so that the chemicals don’t touch the scalp,” says Ihloff. “Another option is to just stick with your natural color and focus on getting a great cut and style.”
•If you find that the products used at your salon irritate your scalp, ask your stylist if it’s okay to bring in your own shampoo, conditioner and/or styling products. You can also ask to have your hair rinsed rather than washed when you go for a cut.